Get in the Boat!

Mark 4:35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

[*]My friends Tom and Stacey celebrated Tom’s 40th birthday a few years ago in the fall by chartering an 18-foot sailboat on Lake Superior. With it came an experienced captain. It was Tom’s actual birthday, so the end of October, and it was a chilly 40 degree day. The captain said to Tom and Stacey, who are admitted adventure junkies, “If you’re up for an adventure, let’s go.” Of course they were. Sure it was cold but it was sunny and clear and calm.  Until it wasn’t. All of a sudden, the wind picked up and their 2 hour sail boat ride became a 5-hour ordeal, with the captain, an atheist, bitter former Catholic cursing God the whole way. 3 foot waves crashed down into the boat and the boat nearly capsized at least once. At one point, Tom looked down and could see the emergency flairs floating in the bottom of the boat. Tom just kept saying to himself, “no one dies on their birthday.” By the time they got back to shore, when Tom tried to stand he fell over – his legs had stopped working. They hobbled to the car and he had to use both of his hands to clutch the keys to get in and start the engine. He remembers his brain not being able to process things. It was scary. They were afraid. [*pic of the day]The disciples in today’s story are afraid. They are in a boat with Jesus and it’s evening. Their plan was to cross to the other side of the lake. And out of nowhere, a storm stirs up and threatens to swamp and sink the boat.  It must have been a bad one and they must have used all their fishermen tricks. After all, a good plenty of the disciples were former fishermen. So this couldn’t have been their first storm at sea? It must have been a doozy to have them running to wake Jesus up and demand him to at least care about the situation.

But it is not that Jesus didn’t care about the situation. And his response to the disciples is not unfeeling, it’s just not about the storm – it’s about them: Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? But we’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’ve been afraid of the thing that seems to be threatening our whole lives or the life of someone that we love. We direct our energy and our fear and our life at that thing. The storm. The disease. The problem to be solved. The broken relationship. The crisis. [*storm]The thing to be afraid of in this story is not the storm.  It’s not the storm that’s causing the problem in the story. It’s Jesus. Jesus is the one, after all, who in just the few chapters preceding this one has gotten the religious officials and politicians in an uproar because he’s eating with the tax collectors and sinners, he’s healing on the sabbath, he’s forgiving in the name of God, he’s claiming all people as brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and he has told stories about the kingdom of God growing everywhere.

Peace. Be still, he says and the storm calms.

Then he says, “You still have no faith?” After all this teaching and living out the promises of God? Jesus stirs up a new storm for the disciples. And for us.

There they are, in a boat at night, afraid, as they cross to the other side of the lake.  This travel, which sounds like nothing much to you and I who live in a state of 10,000 lakes, this travel is a big deal. We are being told a bigger story. Jesus is taking them into new territory where this Good News would be brand new. It implies that they are going out into the land of the non-Jew, into the land of the gentiles. Where perhaps this news won’t be well received. As if it’s going all that well where they are? This crossing of the lake means they are crossing a border. In the book of Mark, Jesus seems to make a habit of showing up in border places, in these transition places, these risky spots. That’s when storms get kicked up, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s in these spots that cognitive dissonance happens. When you’re out of your element, when you’re uncomfortable. That’s when you change. That’s when you learn.

[*road]Jesus is always messing with borders and boundaries. Touching the unclean to heal them on the day you’re not supposed to do it- the Lord’s day. He shows up in those margins to say “this doesn’t work.”  And if that dividing line seems to be working, Jesus will tear it down. He doesn’t do it to create chaos but to set people free.

It’s as if Jesus looks at the disciples and looks at us and says, “Are you up for an adventure? Get in the boat. I know it’s late. I know it’s to a place you’ve never gone. Come on. Trust me.”

And because we are Jesus followers, because we have faith not in ourselves but in Jesus – we get in the boat. And we follow Jesus to those liminal places, those thin places where things are new, where things are chaotic, where a storm is brewing. And we show up as flesh and blood as bodies as people who follow Jesus. And we show up in the name of Jesus to demand that cages and detention centers are not the way.

Jesus seems surprised that the disciples are afraid. He’s just told them about how the kingdom of God will grow everywhere. He’s just told them about all people being his mother and father, his sister and brother. Why are they afraid? It’s all right there, in the person of Jesus.

Tom and Stacey were afraid and they were dependent upon the actual physical person of the atheist captain who swore like, well, a sailor. Yes, he ended up being Jesus to them.

The families on the border have needed us long before now, but now we hear their cries, and the storm is raging louder for us to show up in the name of Jesus and say, “Peace. Be still.”

[*storm]It’s what following Jesus is all about. It’s about showing up in the midst of the storm not because we are strong or brave but because we are following the call of Jesus to go toward those who are in the midst of the raging storm. Who are afraid for their very lives.

Because we are Christian, we do not enjoy the comfort of silence or neutrality when it comes to things like this. Because we follow Jesus, we are constantly called into places of transition, of change, of great dissonance and danger. It’s the place of transformation through Jesus Christ.

Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Oh, it’s not gonna be easy and it’s gonna stir up storms you can’t imagine. But it’s Jesus who has control of the boat. It’s Jesus who will teach you how to say “peace, be still” even when your voice shakes. It’s Jesus who brings the peace and who is this message of Good News. May we follow him to places we’d never imagine. May we show faith in our actions and our lives.

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